Pop Culture Spin

The Best Comedy Performances of the Fall 2014-Spring 2015 Season

As we head into summer, it’s the perfect time to look back at all of the amazing TV we had this season. The fall 2014-spring 2015 season brought some strong new shows as well as the return of many comedy favorites. Here are my choices for the best comedy performances of the season.

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy

10. Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat)

Randall Park’s performance as Louis Huang gives a sense of sweet optimism in the midst of the show’s satire. He’s the perfect foil for Constance Wu’s performance as his onscreen wife. His performance has helped make Fresh Off the Boat one of the best family sitcoms in years.

9. Chris Messina (The Mindy Project)

Since it began, one of the most compelling things about The Mindy Project has been the chemistry between Mindy and Chris Messina’s Danny Castellano. His reserved performances works perfectly with Mindy Kaling’s bubbly energy, making a blend that works for both romance and comedy. Like many of the best sitcom characters, Danny Castellano is a quietly sad character but Messina and the writers are able to turn his pathos into comedy.

8. Karan Soni (Other Space)

The Yahoo! original Other Space was one of the most surprising, interesting new comedies of the past season. Karan Soni’s performance as Stewart Lipinski drove the show. Stewart’s infectious energy and enthusiasm made it a fun watch even as the characters found themselves in the most dire circumstances imaginable.

7. Adam Driver (Girls)

This season saw Adam Driver’s character Adam Sackler separated from Hannah and starting life with a new girlfriend. This gave him a chance to really grow as a character in his own right, outside of being Hannah’s love interest. In the last episode of the season, we got to see him truly vulnerable, with his voice breaking as he tried to convince Hannah to come back to him. It was a huge change from his usual stoic, indifferent performance and a great pay off for his development.

6. Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta has become the most likeable leading man on TV. He’s great at infusing the show with a spirit of easygoing fun and delivering killer punchlines, but in season two we got to see some really great depth from him, as he dealt with his feelings for Amy Santiago, navigated a visit from his absentee father and watched his mentor Ray Holt leave the squad.

5. Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth)

The Last Man on Earth was an incredibly risky premise, especially in the first two episodes that play more like weird silent films than episodes of a sitcom. The show worked because of Will Forte’s incredible performance as Phil Miller. In the early episodes, Forte’s performance turned an hour of Phil running around Tuscon by himself into compelling television. As the show went on and it was revealed what a deeply bad person Phil was capable of being, Forte was what made the cringeworthy character watchable.

4. Anthony Anderson (black-ish)

Anthony Anderson’s Dre Johnson has a tendency to become overzealous and obsessive as he tries to do what’s right for his family, but Anderson’s performance keeps Dre anchored in reality even as he gets caught up in his own world.

3. Joel McHale (Community)

Community‘s strength has always been in the ensemble, but season six, perhaps more than any previous season, really let Jeff Winger shine as a lead. Several episodes dealt with Jeff’s feelings of being stuck in the same place as everyone else moved on. This deep sadness added even more to the character and allowed Joel McHale to really show his vulnerable side, particularly in the finale. At the same time, this season had Jeff at his most open, now that he’s fully embraced these people as true friends and not a study group, and we also got a real sense of easygoing fun as he goofed off with the group.

2. Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation)

Since season 3, Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt has been naturally evolving from an outsider and an antagonist whose jobs is to lay down the law to a fundamental part of the show and of Leslie Knope’s life. Parks and Recreation gave us an emotional final season and Adam Scott was completely up to the job. He also gave an incredibly performance. “I’m Ben Wyatt and I very much approve this message!”

1. Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley)

Thomas Middleditch’s Richard Hendriks is the anxiety-ridden heart of this show. Through the raw pain on his face after every slight, the nervousness he brings to each fumbling step on Richard’s journey and the joy he’s capable of expressing at each small win experienced, Middleditch has, against all odds, turned a twenty-six-year-old who is regularly offered hundreds of thousands of dollars into one of the most relateable characters on TV.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy

10. Lea Michele (Glee)

The final season of Glee was a real redemption season. The show had drifted seriously off course in season 4 and especially in season 5. A huge part of this was a feeling that Glee no longer knew who Rachel Berry was, now that she couldn’t be the awkward, overzealous high school sophomore she started off as. The final season almost felt like a reintroduction to the character, a proper look at who the adult Rachel Berry is. As has always been the case, Lea Michele was the driving force behind the character. She was able to remind a lot of people why we’ve been invested in this character for years.

9. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer dominates all her scenes. Veep is constantly throwing wins with a twist or losses disguised as victories at her and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s reactions perfectly show her navigating this sea of mixed feelings.

8. Kristen Schaal (The Last Man on Earth)

As soon as Kristen Schaal arrived on the show as Carol Pilbasian she became as much of a comedic force as Will Forte. The more despicable Phil Miller became, the more Carol became the compelling reason to watch the show.

7. Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)

New Girl is one of the most consistently funny comedies on TV. Zooey Deschanel’s Jess Day is a relateably awkward, complex character, who can go from being cutesy or weird to pulling on your heartstrings with some earnest emotion at the drop of a hat.

6. Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat)

Fresh Off the Boat was a very pleasant midseason surprise that worked remarkably well from the beginning. This was largely due to Constance Wu, who immediately stole the show as Jessica Huang. Jessica might be the most interesting, funniest sitcom mom since Lois on Malcolm in the Middle.

5. Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

In playing Kimmy Schmidt, Ellie Kemper had the monumental task of acting childlike and at times downright ditzy, while also showing fierce survival instincts and a true, deep toughness. Ellie Kemper does this so well it looks easy and Kimmy Schmidt instantly joined the ranks of the best sitcom leads I’ve ever seen.

4. Ilana Glazer (Broad City)

Ilana Glazer’s easygoing, physical comedy-driven performance as Ilana Wexler brings an incredible sense of joy that makes Broad City a perfect comfort show. Ilana has always felt different from any other character on TV. She brings her to life so fully that she makes the audience feel like they’re watching someone from their own friend group.

3. Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback)

This year gave us a new season of The Comeback, which aired its first extremely acclaimed season in 2005. The combination of the long wait and how beloved the show’s first season had become made the new season highly anticipated. It ended up completely living up to the hype. Lisa Kudrow made the second chapter of Valerie Cherish’s life just as compelling and funny as the first chapter.

2. Courteney Cox (Cougar Town)

Courteney Cox has been quietly giving one of the best TV performances ever on this under-appreciated gem for 6 seasons and she brought it just as much in the final season. From her character Jules Cobb becoming a grandma in the season premiere to the sweet goodbye of the finale, Courteney Cox was the emotional and comedic anchor of an amazing final season.

1. Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

She’s been the best lead actress on a comedy since 2009, why would that change now? This year we saw the end of Leslie Knope’s journey and it was full of compelling things from her feud with Ron Swanson to her decision to run for governor of Indiana. The final season cemented Amy Poehler’s performance as Leslie Knope as one for TV history.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy

10. Ian Gomez (Cougar Town)

The final season of Cougar Town threw some changes at Ian Gomez’s Andy Torres, with his beloved Bobby Cobb moving away and his decision to become a stay-at-home dad. Through it all, he stayed the sweetly funny character we’ve been enjoying for six seasons.

9. Lamorne Morris (New Girl)

Lamorne Morris’s Winston Bishop has always been the greatest source of laugh-out-loud punchlines on this show. His hysterical over-the-top deliveries can punctuate and add to a scene like nothing else.

8. Jim Rash (Community)

With the departures of Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover and Chevy Chase, the later seasons of Community had to do a lot of shuffling to find their rhythm. The best silver lining to come out of these changes was Jim Rash’s ascension from a source for quick punchlines to a true, full formed part of the show. Craig Pelton is a completely unique character, an endearing combination of flamboyant pervert and shy nervous administrator. Season 6 saw him realize his full potential like no season before it. The episode he led, “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing”, ended up being one of the season’s best.

7. TJ Miller (Silicon Valley)

The gradual maturation of TJ Miller’s Erlich Bachman has been one of the most rewarding parts of Silicon Valley season 2. The way his impenetrable confidence has been slowly chipped away at has turned him from just a comedy force to be reckoned with to a three-dimensional character who your heart goes out to.

6. Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation)

In the midst of becoming the biggest superstar on the planet, Chris Pratt took the time to finish Andy Dwyer’s story with the last season of Parks and Recreation. The episode “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” gave him the chance to anchor an episode and showcase his incredible range.

5. Danny Pudi (Community)

Danny Pudi’s Abed Nadir has been one of the most unique and compelling characters on TV since Community premiered. After six years, he full embodies the character and is able to make little moments like the way Abed’s voice broke in the finale when he mentioned Troy’s departure resonate deeply.

4. Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)

Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson has deservedly reached cultural icon status. He shined in the last season, particularly in the tense episode where he was feuding with Leslie Knope. He showed some rare vulnerability as that arc resolved that reminded us that Ron Swanson is not just hilarious, he’s a fully realized character.

3. Alex Karpovsky (Girls)

Ray Ploshansky being the most compelling character on Girls really snuck up on me. I’m not sure when that happened, but when I look back on the best moments of season 4, what stands out are Ray’s hilarious reactions to the traffic in his neighborhood and the earnestness with which he navigated his complex relationships with both Marnie Michaels and Shoshanna Shapiro. The scene where he stood up to Desi was easily one of the best of the season.

2. Martin Starr (Silicon Valley)

In a show full of energetic physical comedy, whether it’s Thomas Middleditch’s nervous twitching or TJ Miller’s bulldozing aggression, Martin Starr has made the character of Bertram Gilfoyle stand out by playing him with stoic restraint. This season has really expanded Gilfoyle’s role, allowing him to the active character in pivotal scenes like the big turning point of “Adult Content.” Martin Starr is able to put such intensity into just a few words that moments like this scene, where Gilfoyle mostly repeated short sentences like “why not?”, are edge-of-your-seat television.

1. Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

While Andre Braugher’s character Ray Holt is often positioned as the ultimate straight man, moments when he busts out of that role like his delighted “hot damn!” are the best moments of the series. He also brings a huge emotional weight to scenes like Ray’s goodbye scene in the finale.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy

10. Julie Bowen (Modern Family)

Julie Bowen’s Claire Dunphy has the thankless role of always being the serious one in her family, but that uptight, killjoy nature leads to some truly funny moments on the show. Claire is one of the most sympathetic characters on Modern Family and an easy character to root for.

9. Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Rosa Diaz is the queen of badass stoicism but the show also finds reasons for her to partake in goofy physical comedy and Stephanie Beatriz nails these moments beautifully. We also got to see the character soften a bit this season due to her relationship with her love interest Marcus, which has added a nice layer to the character.

8. Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Gina Linetti is one of the most fun characters on this show, thanks to Chelsea Peretti’s energetic, bizarrely spirited deliveries. While she could’ve just been a comic relief character who says non-sequiturs, she’s actually an engaging character and it’s been very rewarding watching her relationships to the other character’s on the show grow and develop in season two.

7. Retta (Parks and Recreation)

Retta’s Donna Meagle has been a comedy powerhouse since she first appeared on Parks and Recreation, but the final season gave the character her due more than any season prior. In particular, “Donna and Joe” showed us the character’s wedding and it was great watching this amazing character get more material.

6. Gillian Jacobs (Community)

Gillian Jacobs has helped make Britta Perry one of the most unique characters on TV. Her physical comedy is always on point and her ability to fill even the goofiest scenes with honest emotion turned an episode about her character becoming a living ad for Honda into one of the best episodes of the season.

5. Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Amy Santiago has become more and more important as Brooklyn Nine-Nine has gone on. Her relationships with every character have developed and she’s become as important a part of the show as Peralta or Holt. Melissa Fumero has more than lived up to the task of playing her.

4. Zosia Mamet (Girls)

Zosia Mamet’s performance through Shoshanna Shapiro’s job search created some of the funniest moments of Girls season four and her relationship with Ray is one of the most gripping parts of the show.

3. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation)

April Ludgate has grown and matured, arguably more than any other character on Parks and Recreation. Watching her go from complete apathy to finding her passion and starting a family with Andy Dwyer has been a very rewarding journey. Thanks to Aubrey Plaza’s performance, none of her character’s growth has felt abrupt or like a huge swerve. It’s been a very organic growth and the character has stayed darkly fun through it all.

2. Christa Miller (Cougar Town)

Christa Miller is an absolute powerhouse. Ellie Torres has commanded every scene she’s in as she spouts off signature deliveries of her catchphrases and has an easy chemistry with all of the other characters on the show.

1. Busy Phillipps (Cougar Town)

Since Cougar Town started, Busy Phillipps’s Laurie Keller has been the funniest part of one of the funniest supporting casts on TV. This season we got to see her as a new mom, which created an opportunity for some very nice emotional moments. At the same time, the character kept her comedic energy up.

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